These are India’s tallest waterfalls. But did you know the story behind their name?

Photograph: Shutterstock

Photograph: Shutterstock

Falling from a height of 1,115 ft the Nohkalikai Falls have the tallest plunge in India. Located near Cherrapunji, one of the wettest places on earth, the falls are one of the biggest tourist attractions of Meghalaya. The name Nohkalikai can be translated from Khasi to ‘Jump of Ka Likai’ (ka is a prefix for the female gender in Khasi). The legend behind the name goes thus:

Further upstream from the falls, in a village called Rangjyrteh, stayed a young mother called Likai. Having lost her husband and having no source of income, Likai became a porter. Life was difficult. She would be away from home for hours on end and her infant daughter would remain unattended. Likai married the second time but her husband didn’t appreciate all the attention that was showered on the infant whenever his new wife would be at home. The husband felt jealous and this is where the story takes a gruesome turn.

Not being able to come to terms with being ignored constantly, Likai’s husband killed the infant, cooked her meat and threw away her head and bones. On returning home from a long day’s work, Likai couldn’t find her baby but was so famished that she ate the cooked meat. Likai, like most locals, ate betel nut and betel leaves after meals. And as she settled at the place where she sliced them before eating, she saw a tiny finger she recognized. Putting together what just happened, Likai was horrified with what she had done. Driven by rage and grief, Likai ran to the edge of the waterfall from where she threw herself off the cliff.

The falls thus came to be called Nohkalikai after her.